A Heart for Mission

03.04.15 | by Kimberly Durnan

A Heart for Mission

    This feature on Diane Stanton was first published in May 2014 in a magazine honoring former Bishop James Stanton who had just retired.

    Diane Stanton is a woman of substance.

    As the wife of a bishop, Diane could have easily taken a more comfortably low-profile role. But when her husband, James Stanton, was consecrated as the 6th Bishop in the Diocese of Dallas 21-years ago, she began her own journey that would profoundly advance Christian mission, both at home and abroad.

    Her list of accomplishments include more than 20 mission trips to Uganda, serving as executive director of Uganda Christian University and helping to prevent the extinction of the Batwa tribe in Africa.

    Closer to home, Diane became the beloved founder of the Clergy Family Commission, founder of the World Mission Commission and is currently a sought-after speaker on a variety of religious topics including angels.

    “Diane is a leader by nature,” said Deacon Diana Luck. “Her desire to serve covers many people in many different ways, which is a beautiful gift that she has brought and we are better for it.”

    Diane first became interested in mission as a young adult when she took a 5-month trip around the world, became enchanted with Kenya and was able to interact with several tribes. Upon her return, she attended college at UCLA, and Chapman College where she also met her future husband. Although the exposure to other cultures energized her, she married a man who would eventually enter the priesthood, and for many years she happily settled into the role of a wife and mother while also working in administration for a university.

    Her next foray into Africa didn’t come until decades later. That was after her husband had become bishop, and the Uganda Archbishop reached out for help in re-settling the Pygmies after the country’s government forced them out of the Bwindi Impenetrable Rain Forest.

    The work that needed to be done was considerable. “The Pygmies were at risk of dying off, from starvation or health problems,” Deacon Luck said. “There was such huge need. Diane being a visionary and a leader saw the possibilities and made them a reality.”

    Currently, the Pygmy people are thriving, and have survived the transition out of the rain forest. “More than 3,000 Pygmy lives have been saved. I really feel like this was God’s project,” Diane said. “Everything we tried has worked.”

    Two decades and numerous Africa trips later, Diane has become a welcome face in Uganda and is widely known for aiding schools, empowering women, feeding orphans and bringing health care to the region.

    “She is treated like a rock star over there,” said Deacon Pam Dunbar who has traveled to Uganda with Diane. “They really love her.”

    While Diane’s work in Uganda is widely known and appreciated, she also worked steadily in the diocese to encourage parishes to develop their own world mission efforts and as a result she created the World Mission Commission.

    Inspiration came from the focus of world mission during a pre-Lambeth Conference in 1997.

    “When we first came to Dallas we realized there were no worldwide missions,” Diane said. “My husband’s philosophy was that each church should have their own mission opportunity, and to not narrow their options.”

    Diane started the World Mission Commission to help churches create their own global efforts. Parishes throughout the diocese have developed churches and met basic human needs in various corners of the world including, Africa, Peru, Honduras and Belize to name a few.

    Such missions are paramount to not only the diocese but to the Episcopal Church, Deacon Dunbar said. “It’s important to share the gospel beyond the borders of our own Diocese. It gives us the opportunity to help people who need it and in turn they help us in the matters of spiritual growth.”

    While widely known for her work in world mission and Uganda, Diane is most fond of helping unite clergy family in the diocese with the creation of the Clergy Family Commission.

    “Being in a clergy family is a unique experience and can be isolating at times,” Deacon Luck said. “To interact with other clergy families who are living the same situation can make a big difference. You have someone who understands because they have the same kind of life. Diane was determined that our clergy families would have an opportunity to get to know each other and participate in events together.”

    The commission provides support and social networking opportunities to families of clergy. There are organized picnics, holiday parties, family camp outings, retreats, prayer breakfasts and other opportunities to socialize.

    “It’s a support group for clergy families,” Diane said. “It’s the closest to my heart.”

    With years of achievement behind her, and now that her husband is retiring as bishop, Diane has slowly begun to reduce her leadership roles and plans to retire from Uganda Christian University. “I felt God’s nudge last year,” she said. “I’ve done my work and I’ve loved it. But it’s time to move on.”

    Already a popular speaker at churches and retreats, Diane will continue to accept opportunities to share words of hope with others. She also plans to spend more time with family including her two children, their spouses and five grandchildren.

    “I’m looking forward to this time in my life,” she said. “I feel like God has a new assignment for me.”